Ephesians Online—Chapter One

  • Posted on Jan 5, 2010

Welcome to the Ephesians Online Course! 
This is the first time I’ve tried an online course at Memorial….so we are all part of a great experiment. My first blog of the New Year gives you some ideas of why I love the Letter to the Ephesians (see my post immediately before this one). Now comes the time to dig into the text. Here are some initial comments about how I am approaching the course.

Getting started with Paul: This will be a six-week course. There will be THREE segments to each weekly class. FIRST, each Monday, I will post an initial assignment for the week. The assignment will include (1) reading from the Letter to the Ephesians; (2) Some preliminary comments by me; and (3) some questions to mull over. THEN comes the SECOND interactive phase. This phase is important and involves your input and comments. As you read and mull over the assignment, I humbly invite your comments on the readings and questions. What strikes you about the reading? Where do you have immediate (even visceral) positive or negative reactions? What do you wonder about Paul, the community he writes to, and the utility of this piece of scripture to your everyday faith. On FRIDAY, the third phase happens. I will take the comments for the week and write my own response. That response will probably include research on Paul and the community of Ephesus, the historical context of the times, what scholars have said, and just general ruminations from me. At the end of the course, I hope that we can gather in person for coffee or tea (and maybe host a local New Testament scholar) to put a capstone on our time together. If this proves to be a popular idea, we can choose another topic for Lent. So here we go with our first assignment.

Week of 2 Epiphany beginning January 18, 2010:

Assignment: (1)Read Chapter One of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. The Letter comes after Galatians and before Philippians in the New Testament. I would suggest a form of lectio divina type of reading. First, make sure you have some time of quiet without distractions–early morning or late evening are often best. Read Ephesians through once. Then, read Ephesians OUT LOUD slowly. Keep pen and paper nearby and after you have read the text out loud, make notes about what words and phrases struck you. Now think about the passage in relation to my following comments and questions.

(2) Martha’s comments: Chapter One of Ephesians takes on a common Pauline formula: Salutation/Greeting in verses 1:1-2, Thanksgiving of Blessings–to God(verses 3-14) and to the hearers of the Letter (15-22). One of the hallmarks of Paul is his concept of faith as a response made in trust. The greek word he uses for this response is pistisPistis is usually translated as “faith” but also “trust”. According to Paul, the gospel message must be heard and heeded in trust and faith. According to scholar Leander Keck:

When Paul understands faith as obedience, he does not regard the gospel as command. Rather, it is a message that makes a claim on the hearer, one which calls for a response that has a moral quality to it, not merely an intellectual assent….It energizes the will no less than the mind and feelings; trust is a response of the whole self. When that response is to a word that makes a claim on the hearer, that response can be called obedience….To trust is to commit oneself…The more radical the message, the deeper the response. In fact, who we are is determined by whom and what we trust (or distrust), by what we count on. (Keck, Paul and His Letters, Proclamation Commentaries, Gerhard Krodel, editor, pp. 51-52)

In verses 15ff., Paul commends the people in Ephesus (or the churches in Asia Minor where the letter was circulated) for their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love towards all the saints. They are commended for their response. This is the part of the letter that grabs me again and again.

Questions: (1) What part of Chapter One of the Letter to the Ephesians grabbed you? That made you sit up and notice? If you were in a home church in Ephesus listening to this letter being read, what would you take away? Or had Paul lost you when he started in on adoption and redemption?

(2) Where does trust figure into your faith life? In what do you absolutely trust in this life? 

I’ll be watching for comments on this blog all through the week. You can also e-mail at [email protected]. It works best if we all post our comments on this blog so, like in a face-to-face class, we can benefit from everyone’s comments. Grace and peace, Martha